Cultural Center Loses $487,949 in Fiscal 09; Taxpayers Are Hit Hard
By Leo Coughlin
LARGO - An analysis of the expenditures and revenues for the Cultural Center, conducted by the Recreation, Parks and Arts Department, for the fiscal year 2009 shows that the center operated at a loss of $487,949.
Just the raw figures confirm the heavy drag the center is on the city budget, which is severely pressed in the current working and the specter of a tax increase is very real.
Aside from the huge loss at the Cultural Center, which is thought to be a yearly occurrence going on year after year, figures derived from the analysis raise even more questions.
As a footnote to the analysis, Joan Byrne, director of RPA, pointed out that employees spent 20 hours doing the research required to produce the figures, indicating, obviously, that ongoing figures for the operation of the Cultural Center are lacking.
"If there were a regular scheme of record keeping, all these figures would be at someone's finger tips," one veteran observer noted. "There would be no need for an employee to spend two and a half working days scurrying around to get the numbers."
In some respects, the analysis raises more questions than it answers. For example, under the category of "Concessions," direct expenses are listed as $29,459 while revenue is listed as $64,824.
In any business situation, expenses would be the cost of products and revenue would be the total sales of the products.
Because concessions include beer, wine and whiskey, one local restaurateur said, "These figures are wacky. They are getting a return of something like two point two times the cost of goods while anyone in the business knows that the standard is usually four to one, minimum."
On top of that, it turns out that the concessions are not operated with a cash register, which would record all transactions, but instead, a cash box is used. There is no record of what is sold.
"What I'd like to know," the restaurateur said, "is how do they keep track of the sales tax that must by law be paid? With no cash register there is no record of anything. Using a cigar box to handle the money is very strange, indeed."
According to the analysis, performances cost $444,190 while revenue for these performances is $328,917, a loss of $115,300.
People in the real theater business have to charge enough to avoid a loss, otherwise the famous Wilkins Micawber observation - "Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure nineteen pounds nineteen and six, result happiness. Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure twenty pounds ought and six, result misery." - applies.
In the analysis something called "Box Office Services" is listed as costing $101,987 while revenue is a paltry $38,567 for a loss of $63,421 - 62 percent.
Expenses like personnel ($309,845), utilities ($98,873 - $1,900 a week!), operating ($85,669) whatever that is, are all uncovered by any revenue and are a direct drag on the city budget.
Partners n Progress, a group that is a strong proponent of the Cultural Center, kicks in a mere $7,785 in contributions over a year. "That is pathetic," one former commission member said.
Altogether, the Cultural Center is a losing proposition without any ability to come anywhere near operating in any viable way. No real business would survive with these numbers.
The $487,949 loss represents 42.7 percent of the expenses.
In a city supported by tax payers, of course, there is no loss such as a business would experience. Any business in this shape would cease to exist.
But the almost half a million dollar loss is picked up every year by taxpayers.
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